Minnesota United celebrate past, future with 52,242 fans at home finale

MINNEAPOLIS – The last match in a stadium can be bittersweet for a team. Minnesota United FC turned their last match at TCF Bank Stadium into a party.

After Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the LA Galaxy – the Loons’ final match at the University of Minnesota’s college football venue – in front of a state-record crowd of 52,242 fans, the team held a lighting ceremony at their new home, Allianz Field.

MNUFC have made TCF Bank Stadium their home for two seasons, but there was no escaping they were temporary guests -- from the Golden Gophers’ logos and wordmarks in the end zones and center circle, to the maroon and gold colors that draped the facility.

Next year Minnesota will finally move into their proper home, one designed specifically for soccer.

The Loons still wanted to give a proper sendoff to TCF, and created a marketing campaign called #50ktoMidway, an attempt to get 50,000 to attend the final home match of the season. For the fans, it was a chance to say goodbye to the place – and the middling results of the club’s first two years in MLS – and look forward to the bright future promised by the lights of Allianz Field.

Even an hour before kickoff, lines were long to get into the match, and the Wonderwall, home of the Loon’ supporters groups, was already half full. Despite a forecast of snow, it was a perfect fall day in the Upper Midwest, with temperatures in the 50s and a clear blue sky.

By the time the game started, the stadium was mostly full and louder than it had ever been. Even Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s header to open the scoring did little to quiet the crowd. On Loons corner kicks, the entire stadium had their scarves up and waving.

“Once again our supporters have been magnificent and we can’t thank them enough,” said coach Adrian Heath postgame. “I’m just disappointed that we couldn’t give them a performance that warranted the level of support that we had.

“The game is here to stay. This league is getting bigger and stronger and better every year.”

Speaking at halftime, Minnesota United CEO Chris Wright was enthusiastic.

“It’s a historic moment for our franchise and the league inside of Minnesota,” said Wright. “It tells the story of how the franchise has arrived and taken its place in the marketplace.

“I just can’t wait to put 20,000 people inside Allianz Field.”

While the results on the pitch haven’t always been stellar for the Loons in MLS, attendance has been: Minnesota have averaged 23,902 fans per game this season.

“It’s great support for Minnesota,” said interim Galaxy head coach Dom Kinnear, “and I hope it carries on for next year.”

The Loons have missed the playoffs in their first two seasons in MLS, but can’t fault their form at home: Their record of 17-12-5 at TCF is markedly better than the four total wins they’ve posted on the road over the same period.

“They are incredible during the game. They give us that push when we’re here at home and that is why we have a good homefield advantage,” said MNUFC defender and Minnesota native Brent Kallman.